Education in Iceland

Iceland – education

In Iceland’s school policy, great emphasis is placed on securing the mother tongue; this is done, among other things, through a state publishing house that publishes all teaching aids for children and young people’s education. Education is mainly public and free, and the number of private schools is very small. There is ten years of compulsory schooling from 6-16 years.

Preschool for 2-6 year olds is sought by 75% of all children (1992). Compulsory schooling is fulfilled in primary school, which, as in Denmark, is based on the class teacher principle.

Upper secondary education is given either in the four-year upper secondary school leading to a general matriculation examination, in a vocational school offering vocational education and a technical matriculation examination, in a polytechnic that includes both a matriculation examination and vocational education, or in a special school containing specialized vocational education. In 1994, 85% of 16-year-olds started secondary education; due to dropout, however, only 66% of 18-year-olds participated in education.

Iceland has two universities (1996), one in Reykjavík, founded in 1911, and one in Akureyri, founded in 1987. In addition, there are several other higher education institutions. A number of Icelanders study abroad, especially in Scandinavia and the USA.

OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Iceland


POPULATION: 320,000 (Source: COUNTRYaah)

AREA: 102,819 km²


RELIGION: Lutherans 94%, Catholics 1%, others 5%

COIN: crown




POPULATION COMPOSITION: Icelandic citizens 98%, others (especially Poles, Danes, Americans, English, Norwegians and Germans) 2%

GDP PER residents: $ 33,133 (2007)

LIFE EXPECTANCY: men 78 years, women 82 years (2007)




Iceland is an island and independent republic of the North Atlantic. Iceland has only been inhabited for 1100 years; the world’s oldest parliament, Alþingi Íslands, Altinget, was established at Þingvellir in 930. The country came under Norwegian and from the 1300’s. Danish dominance and gained independence in 1918; it has been a republic since 1944. It is now a highly developed industrial and welfare society, which in particular bases its economy on rich local natural resources. Geologically, Iceland is a very young formation with large, uninhabited natural areas and enormous resources of hydropower and geothermal energy. The island is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which remains active with frequent volcanic eruptions. The ridge forms the natural geographical border to North America, but historically, economically and politically, Iceland is closely linked to Scandinavia and Europe.

  • Find two-letter abbreviation for each independent country and territory, such as IS which stands for Iceland.

Iceland – church relations

Christianity was formally adopted by the Althing at Þingvellir approximately year 1000. The church became Evangelical-Lutheran in 1551. Religious freedom was introduced in 1874, when the country got its own constitution.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is a national church and comprises 90.5% of the population (1996). There are three Evangelical Lutheran Free Churches (3.5%), which have the same confession and liturgy as the People’s Church. 1% of the population belongs to the Catholic Church.

There was no extensive religious revival in Iceland in the 1800’s. In 1899, Friðrik Friðriksson began the successful YMCA work in Reykjavík; together with the missionary associations, they formed the front against liberal theology within the church until the mid-1900’s.

Since 1944, the Minister of Church Affairs has decided the external affairs of the church. The bishop is the head of the church; bishop and church meeting decide the internal affairs of the church. The church meeting, grdl. 1957, consists of bishop, priests and lay people. The country consists of 114 priestly vocations divided into 16 provincial paths (1996). An ordination bishop is found in each of the old dioceses of Hólar and Skálholt. Just under a quarter of the ordained priests are women, the first ordained in 1974. Kvennakirkjan, the Women’s Church, is a kind of grassroots movement within the national church, which during growing support holds a women’s worship service once a month.

Interview surveys have shown that Icelanders are a religious people. The church aisle is not large, but people search extensively for the church in connection with rituals of life and holidays.

Iceland – Constitution

The Constitution of the Republic of Iceland dates from June 1944 and was last amended in 1999. Legislative power lies with the Althingand the President jointly; in fact, the role of the president is essentially representative. In 1991, the Althingi became a unicameral parliament with 63 members, elected for four years by ordinary, direct election; the voting age is 18 years. In 1999, the number of constituencies was reduced from eight to six, three of which include Reykjavík with suburbs. In each constituency, nine constituency seats are elected plus one additional mandate in proportional representation elections, in the three capital constituencies, however, two additional mandates. The Election Act takes into account population shifts between the regions with a provision that the geographical distribution of seats must be adjusted if the number of votes per mandate in one constituency is less than half of what is required to be elected in another. However, the number of seats in each constituency must be at least six.

Bills must go through three readings in the Althing and then be signed by the president.

The president is elected every four years by direct election, but although the office has been held several times by former politicians, there is a tradition for the president to stay out of party politics. Normally, a sitting president is re-elected either completely without counter-candidates or with a very large majority. The president heads the cabinet and appoints the ministers, but in practice it is the party leaders in the Althing who are responsible for forming the government. The Constitution also allows the President to reject a bill; this can then be done after a referendum. Only once in the history of the republic has a president exercised this right, namely after the adoption of a new media law in 2004. Instead of printing a referendum, the Althingi chose to repeal the law.

Iceland – political parties

Until the First World War, the main topic for the political parties in Iceland was the relationship with Denmark and the struggle for independence. The parties, such as the Home Rule Party (Heimastjórnflokkurinn) and the first Independence Party (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn), were loosely structured and unstable organizations with relatively short lives. In 1916, the modern Icelandic party system emerged, with the founding of both the Icelandic Social Democratic Party (Alþýðuflokkurinn) and the Progress Party.(The Progressive Party). Two bourgeois parties, the Conservative Party (Íhaldsflokkurinn) and Det Liberale Parti (Frjálslyndi flokkurinn), merged in 1929 to form a new Independence Party. In 1930, the Icelandic Communist Party (Kommúnistaflokkur Íslands) was founded, which from 1956 was continued under the name Folkealliancen (Alþýðubandalagið); this left-wing party stood for many years strongly in Icelandic politics facing a relatively small social democratic party.

The four-party pattern was challenged by the Icelandic Women’s Party (Kvennalistinn) in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but in the 1999 general election, the Icelandic Social Democratic Party, the People’s Alliance and the Women’s Party decided to join forces in a united front called the Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin). However, the alliance, which drew inspiration from British New Labor, was only partially successful because many former members of the People’s Alliance and the Women’s Party instead formed their own party, the Left Movement – The Greens. (Left Movement – Green Party). In addition, a small bourgeois party, the Liberals (Frjálslyndi flokkurinn), has been represented in the Althing since 1999.

The general election in 2007 marked the end of 12 years of government cooperation between the Independence Party and the Progress Party. As Prime Minister, Davið Oddson from the Independence Party became Iceland’s longest-serving head of government from 1991-2004. After two years with the Progress Party’s Halldór Ásgrímsson as head of government, the post went back to the Independence Party when Geir Haarde became prime minister in 2006. Haarde continued after the 2007 election, now in coalition with the Social Democratic Alliance.

Iceland – economy

Iceland has a small open economy; total foreign trade accounts for more than 75% of GDP. Fish and fish products are an important part of exports, while imports are broadly composed. Pga. the great dependence on the outside world, Iceland pursues a liberal trade policy in most areas, but has maintained high tariffs on agricultural products.

Iceland is a member of EFTA and has been closely linked to the EU since 1994 through the European Economic Area, EEA. implies that the internal market also applies to Iceland, with the exception of the fisheries and agricultural area, which is subject to special agreements. The EEA Agreement was a major contributor to the full liberalization of financial markets for capital movements to and from abroad from 1995. However, foreigners’ access to direct investment in the fisheries sector remains subject to restrictions, due to the industry’s dominant role in the economy. At the same time, Iceland’s economic dependence on fisheries has been reduced through a significant expansion of the aluminum industry, and new plants are under construction. The tourism industry has also experienced strong growth since 1990.

Throughout the post-war period, Iceland’s economic growth has, on average, been above most other OECD-land, but with significant fluctuations from year to year in line with the business cycle in the fishery. However, the great dependence on a single profession also led to periods of strong inflation. From the mid-1970’s to the early 1980’s, consumer prices rose on average by more than 50% per year, exacerbated by wage indexation and frequent devaluations. In a short number of years, prices managed to calm down. At the same time, the social partners were encouraged to maintain wage restraint through tax breaks and subsidies. This policy led to large deficits in public budgets, exacerbated by an economic crisis in 1988-93, but after tightening fiscal policy, public debt has been declining, while price developments have largely been kept on par with Iceland’s leading trading partners.

The EEA agreement and the liberalization of Iceland’s financial sector with the introduction of stock exchange and currency exchanges have created a modern economy that is fully integrated into the European market. Since the turn of the millennium, Icelandic companies have expanded their activities abroad, especially through acquisitions of e.g. financial companies, food production, retail chains and airlines. In total foreign trade, services make up more than a third. Public and semi-public companies’ investments in power plants to expand the aluminum industry are a significant background for annual growth rates of around 5% at the beginning of the new millennium, and for Iceland’s position in 2006 as one of the five richest countries in the OECD group. Other driving forces in the development are the large Icelandic pension funds and new opportunities for home loans from 2004.

Unemployment has traditionally been low in Iceland, but from the early 1990’s unemployment rose to a relatively high level – around 5%. During the recent period of economic growth, however, there is again close to full employment, and the demand for labor has drawn many from Eastern Europe in particular to Iceland. The disadvantage of the violent economic activity is large imbalances in foreign trade. After some years in the 1990’s with a balance of payments surplus, the deficit in 2005 reached record highs of over 16% of the country’s GDP. In the same year, Iceland’s external debt exceeded the country’s GDP. The debt is predominantly private as a result of the banking sector’s raising loans abroad. Several years of uninterrupted growth for the Icelandic stock market were replaced in the first half of 2006 by significant price declines. At the same time, the Icelandic krone came under pressure, and there were signs of new inflation. The situation has fueled the debate over whether Iceland can keep its currency, which is the world’s smallest with a floating exchange rate.

Among Iceland’s most important trading partners are Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States and Denmark. Denmark’s exports to Iceland in 2005 were approximately 1.9 billion DKK, while imports from there amounted to 687 mill. Processed goods, IT and communication equipment, machines, pharmaceuticals, furniture, clothing and food are the most important export goods. Imports consist predominantly of fish and feed.

Iceland – social conditions

Both social security and the public service in Iceland are characterized by Nordic social conditions and Nordic social policy thinking. The public sector is responsible for comprehensive service tasks relating to health, care for the elderly and childcare, to which all citizens have access; the cash security schemes are paid mainly over the ordinary taxes and also cover the entire population.

A tax-financed national pension from the 67th year is provided. The size is independent of previous income, but is reduced when the pensioner or spouse has other simultaneous incomes. In addition, there are labor market pensions linked to individual occupations. Disability pension (disability pension) is given to people with a work capacity of less than 50%.

Unlike the other Nordic countries, all employees in Iceland are automatically members of a state unemployment insurance. The unemployment benefit amount is calculated according to a wage rate for unskilled workers in the fishing industry. The financing is done through taxes and through employer contributions.

During illness, all employees are entitled to full pay for a period that depends on the duration of employment. Thereafter, unemployment benefits are provided by the public health insurance, of which everyone is automatically a member. Home help, etc. provided by the municipalities. Check youremailverifier for Iceland social condition facts.

Iceland – health conditions

Life expectancy for Icelanders of approximately 81 years, the highest in Europe, is mainly due to the fact that the average life expectancy of men is almost the same as that of women. The infant mortality rate in 1994 is 3.4 per 1000 live births the lowest in the Nordic countries, despite the fact that the population often has a long distance to the nearest maternity ward.

Mortality from cardiovascular disease is declining, as in other Western European countries. For both men and women, it is below the other Nordic countries with 361 for men and 207 for women per year, respectively. 100,000 residents (1994). For cancers of all forms, the corresponding figures are 180 and 166. In the 1980’s, Icelandic women had the highest frequency in the Nordic countries (except Greenland) of lung cancer. After a modest drop, they have now been overtaken by the Danes.

In 1997, 41 cases of AIDS were reported, which relatively places Iceland on a par with Norway and Sweden, ie. lower than Denmark, but higher than Finland.

The overall responsibility for the health service lies with the Ministry of Health and Social Insurance; operational responsibility lies in eight health districts. The financing is predominantly state-owned (approximately 84%) and comes from state tax or contributions to the public health insurance. In 1993, Iceland spent 8.3% of GDP on health care, ie approximately 25% more than Denmark. Patients pay a fixed amount for services provided by a general practitioner, for laboratory examinations, etc. Hospitalization is free of charge for the patient. The state provides subsidies for prescription drugs.

Iceland has six major hospitals, but also has beds attached to a total of 21 health centers, and the bed capacity is 9.3 per. 1000 residents (1994), i.e. 80% larger than in Denmark. The primary health service emanates predominantly from health centers evenly distributed across the country. Iceland has 2.9 doctors per. 1000 residents corresponding to Denmark and 5.5 nurses.

Every Icelander over the age of 16 consumes on average. 4.6 liters of alcohol per. year (1994), and approximately 70% of the population are non-smokers.

Iceland – management

Iceland’s local government is divided into 124 municipalities, of which 30 are cities and the others are rural municipalities. Strong efforts are being made towards municipal mergers to create sustainable units in the sparsely populated country; in 1996, there were 53 fewer municipalities than ten years before. The municipalities are free to decide whether, for the purpose of ordinary co-operation, they will join together under more comprehensive district councils. With the exception of 10 areas, all municipalities are members of one of a total of 20 district councils. The municipalities appoint representatives to the district councils in relation to population. All municipalities are members of a common interest organization that takes care of many significant joint tasks for all municipalities. The division of burdens and tasks between the state and municipalities is based on a law from 1989. The municipal assemblies are elected by direct, general election, in the cities and other urban and larger municipalities according to the proportional election method. In the smaller rural municipalities, there are most often personal elections by simple majority elections. The Ministry of Social Affairs supervises the local government, which is mainly a legality supervision, not a financial one. With a radical reform of the judiciary at the local level in the early 1990’s, the judiciary was completely separated from the executive.

Iceland – legal system

The Icelandic legal system has retained its Danish character. In a few areas, however, Jónsbók still applies, an Icelandic law from 1281. Iceland has participated in Nordic law co-operation, and several of the laws introduced after 1918 have a Nordic model; In 2000, Iceland also introduced the new Nordic Purchase Act. Iceland has not previously participated in international legal co-operation to the same extent as the other Nordic countries. However, as a member of EFTA, Iceland implemented the Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in 1995, and in 2000 Iceland acceded to the CISG. In 2005, a competition law was introduced, which follows the principles contained in the EU competition rules.

The Icelandic judiciary was reformed in the early 1990’s. There are eight lower courts, the Héraðsdóur, as well as the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, unlike in Denmark and most other European countries, whose court systems include three instances. In addition to the ordinary courts, Iceland has two special courts, the Félagsdómur, which rules in labor law cases, and the Landsdómur, whose jurisdiction almost corresponds to that of the Supreme Court in Denmark.

Iceland – military

Iceland’s military defense was, according to an agreement from 1951, handled by NATO forces at the Keflavík base. Here was a total strength of approximately 2250 men, all of whom were Americans except for a small Dutch unit. The forces were divided into a small security unit of navy, a fighter aircraft and a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Iceland has a Coast Guard of 130 operating from a base in Reykjavík. The force has three coastguard vessels and a support and test vessel, helicopters and a transport aircraft.

In October 2006, the Americans left Iceland and in April 2007, Iceland and Norway entered into a bilateral agreement on the defense of Icelandic airspace. During March 2009, however, the Air Force’s F-16 fighter aircraft maintained repulsion readiness.

Iceland was one of the founding members of NATO in 1949.

Iceland – trade union movement

The first trade unions in Iceland emerged in the late 1800’s, and in 1916 the national organization Alþýðusamband Íslands (ASÍ) was established, which also included the Social Democrats. In 1940, the party left ASÍ, which has since been politically independent. The degree of organization is approximately 85%. The majority of the trade unionists are affiliated with ASÍ, which in 1994 had 65,000 members, while the union of state and municipal employees, Bandalag starfanna ríkis and Bæja, established in 1942, had approximately 17,000 members. Both organizations are affiliated with Frie Faglige Internationale.

Iceland – libraries and archives

Landets nationalbibliotek, founded in 1818 in Reykjavík, was merged with the University Library in 1994, founded in 1940, in a new, monumental building, Þjóðarbókhlaðan, under the name Landsbókasafn Íslands. University Library; it holds approximately 700,000 printed books and approximately 15,000 manuscripts. Irreplaceable medieval manuscripts, transferred as a gift from Denmark 1971-97, are kept in the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi, including the Codex Regius and the Flatøbogen (see Icelandic manuscripts). Of the country’s approximately 250 public libraries are the 137 public libraries; since 1827 they have been created by private reading companies, the oldest from 1790. The public libraries’ total book stock is approximately 2 mio. bind.

The National Archives in Reykjavík, Þjóðskjalasafn Íslands, is from 1915 both national and national archives, as the archives of the central administration and the local state administration are stored here according to regulations in Iceland’s current archives law of 1985. In Denmark in the 1920’s the National Archives. In addition to the National Archives, the city of Reykjavík has its own city archive. Since 1947, a number of independent district archives have been established, which are financed by the municipalities and include archives from both the local pursuits and the market towns.

Iceland – mass media

Bishop Jón Arason provided the first printing press to the country in the early 1530’s and thus made it possible to go from the sagas’ oral and later handwritten news dissemination to an actual mass communication; first as books, from 1781 as magazines and from 1848 as 14-day newspapers.

Elements of journalism can be traced far back in the sagas, but it was not until 1910 that Iceland with Vísir got a modern newspaper. Leading the way in the press, however, soon after its founding in 1913 was Morgunblaðið as a mouthpiece for the Independence Party. In 1981, Vísir merged with Dagblaðið (grdl. 1975) to Dagblaðið-Vísir (DV), which gained great importance as a popular single-issue newspaper.

From the late 1990’s, three traditional party newspapers closed one by one. Morgunblaðið, which is today independent of party politics, has since 2001 been pushed as the country’s largest daily newspaper by the free newspaper Fréttablaðið, which is distributed to households every morning to approximately 80% of all Icelanders. Fréttablaðið is published by Dagsbrún, which is controlled by Baugur Group, and which also owns DV. Another free newspaper, Blaðið, has appeared, with the same owners as Morgunblaðið. The magazines are supplemented by regional weekly newspapers, and a rich selection of nationwide weekly magazines are printed. The English-language quarterly magazine Iceland Review publishes a daily overview of Icelandic news on the Internet. Iceland has no national news agency.

The state-owned radio company Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV) was founded in 1930. It has two national radio channels as well as a TV channel (Ríkisútvarpið, sjónvarp), which was established in 1966 and did not broadcast on Thursdays and throughout July. RÚV’s monopoly was broken in 1986 with the formation of a commercial radio station (Bylgjan) and a commercial television station (Stöð 2). These two and several other stations are owned in 2006 by Dagsbrún, one of two companies that together operate all of Iceland’s six commercial radio channels and as many TV channels. The concentration of large parts of the media market in a few hands gave rise to a new media law in 2004, but the law met with fierce criticism and when the President of Iceland refused to sign it, the Althingi chose to repeal the law.

Iceland – visual art

The oldest known visual art from Iceland dates back to the Viking Age; it is especially finely ornamented metal jewelry, but the sources also mention painted and carved woodwork.

The woodcarving technique was highly developed in the Middle Ages and testifies to the Icelanders’ extensive contacts in Europe. Thus, there are Byzantine features in the carvings on the planks from the end of the 1000’s that originate from houses in Flatartunga and Bjarnastaðahlíð (now in the National Museum, Reykjavík). None of the medieval churches have been preserved, but some furniture is found today at the National Museum in Reykjavík, such as a Romanesque crucifix from the 12th century and a door from Valþjófsstaðir from approximately 1200 with richly carved images.

The book painting, which flourished in the 14th century and often had English stylistic features, can be seen in Flatøbogen (University of Iceland) and Stjórn (The Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection in Copenhagen), which is an Icelandic Bible translation.

From the Middle Ages, several antependies and altar cloths are known, made in the same technique as the Bayeux wallpaper. The Icelandic sketchbook (15th century, University of Iceland) contains 21 leaves with drawings that may have been templates for larger works. The time after 1500 was marked by decline, also for the visual arts.

With the Reformation, ecclesiastical orders declined. There was no able-bodied bourgeoisie to turn to, and the pictorial culture had to survive in the following centuries in popular metal and wood carving works as well as textiles.

In the 19th century, an incipient visual art was seen with, for example, Þorsteinn Guðmundsson (1817-64) and Sigurður Guðmundsson (1833-74), who studied with Constantin Hansen in Denmark.

But the real pioneers of Icelandic art are the symbolist sculptor Einar Jónsson and the painters Þórarinn Þorláksson and Ásgrímur Jónsson, who introduced a naturalistic landscape painting at a time when national ideas were beginning to emerge. Þorláksson in particular often took his motifs from Þingvellir, the symbol of the nation’s lost freedom.

Landscape painting, which has since been prevalent in Icelandic art, was renewed by Júlíana Sveinsdóttir, but especially by the modernist painters Jón Stefánsson and Jóhannes Kjarval, who helped to give the painting a more fantastic dimension and to introduce expressionism and cubism. From the 1920’s, Icelandic folk art and legends became a lasting source of inspiration for several artists.

The 1930’s were characterized by depictions from everyday life, eg Gunnlaugur Scheving (1904-72), as well as the development of graphics with Jón Engilberts (1908-72) and Barbara Árnason (1911-75). Finnur Jónsson (1892-1989) experimented with abstract painting as early as the 1920’s, but it was not until the 1940’s that abstract art was recognized by the painter Svavar Guðnason, who was part of Cobra, and the sculptors Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982) and Sigurjón Ólafsson.

Other pioneers are Nína Tryggvadóttir (1913-68), Eiríkur Smith (b. 1925), the sculptor Gerður Helgadóttir (1928-75) and Jón Árnason (1931-89), who began working with kinetic sculpture in the 1960’s. The September group’s exhibitions became a forum for avant – garde art around 1950.

Based on pop art, Erró, Hringur Jóhannesson (1932-96) and Einar Hákonarson (b. 1945) and others introduced a new figurative painting in the 1960’s. Central to the Fluxus-inspired SUM group from 1965 were the performance artist Magnús Pálsson (b. 1929), the weaver Hildur Hákonardóttir (b. 1938), the minimalist Kristján Guðmundsson (b. 1941) and the concept artist Sigurður Guðmundsson (b. 1942), who in 1978 helped found the Living Art Museum in Reykjavík.

Most Icelandic artists are educated both at home (including at the Art School in Reykjavík, founded 1943) and abroad, in recent years often in the Netherlands, eg Jóhanna Yngvadóttir (b. 1953), Helgi Friðjónsson (b. 1953) and Georg Hauksson (b. 1961), in whom the Icelandic landscape has been given a new interpreter.

The intellectual art is still very prominent in Iceland. Features from minimalism and concept art are seen in Svava Björnsdóttir (b. 1952), Birgir Andrésson (b. 1955) and Kristinn E. Hrafnsson (b. 1960), while Finnbogi Pétursson (b. 1959) incorporates sound in his sculptures and objects. Steingrímur Eyfjörð (b. 1954), Þorvaldur Þorsteinsson (b. 1960) and Ólafur Elíasson explore in video, installations and with digital technology the art medium itself and its relationship to the outside world.

At the Reykjavík Art Festival Biennale in 2000, one of the main themes was the technology-based art with contributions from e.g. The Icelandic Love Corporation, which also participated in the international performance festival in Odense in 1999. With his bright, figurative images, Helgi Þorgils Friðjónsson (b. 1953) is one of the most important innovators of the pictorial tradition, and Hrafnkell Sigurðsson (b. 1963) has in photography created a new image of Icelandic nature.

Iceland – architecture

Icelandic architecture began in the Viking Age. See also the Viking Age (Viking art).

From written sources and finds of old plots, Icelandic building customs date back to the settlement period. The best-preserved remains of the typical farm, the so-called peat farm, are Stöng in Þórsárdalur, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1104, and Forna-Lá in Vestisland (1450-1550). The peat farms were built with a central longhouse and smaller extensions, and the materials were peat, wood and stone. Of the medieval churches, the larger of which were stave churches, none are preserved. With the increased trade and larger urban settlements in the 1700’s and 1800’s. first prefabricated wooden houses came to Iceland, then new materials such as corrugated iron, steel and concrete, and together with the spread of wooden houses, it gave the ordinary building style a character that is still dominant. The oldest preserved architect-designed buildings are made of natural stone and designed by Danes,Niels Eigtved, Domkirken i Hólar (1763) by Lauritz de Thurah and Altinget i Reykjavík (1879-81) by Ferdinand Meldahl. The first Icelandic architect, Rögnvaldur Ólafsson (1874-1917), introduced concrete as a building material; it was especially used by Guðjón Samúelsson (1887-1950), who was educated in Copenhagen, for example for the trading house Nathan & Olsen (1916) and the National Theater (1950), both in Reykjavík. Functionalism and modernism won out with Gunnlaugur Halldórsson (1909-86) and Skarphéðinn Johannesson (1914-70). Younger architects such as Guðmundur Jónsson (b. 1953) and Stúdíó Granda, who designed Reykjavík’s new town hall (1992), make increasing use of traditional forms and materials.

The Art Museum in Akureyri (1993) is housed in a Bauhaus-inspired building from the 1930’s, and in 2000 most of the Reykjavík Art Museum moved into a former warehouse by the harbor, rebuilt by Stúdíó Granda, which also stood for the new Supreme Court building (1996) in basalt, copper, concrete and wood. The National and University Library of Iceland (1994), designed by Manfreð Vilhjálmsson (b. 1928) and Þorvaldur S. Þorvaldsson (b. 1933), is an enclosed, compact building, symbolically surrounded by a moat that never freezes. Palmar Kristmundsson (b. 1955) designed Iceland’s new embassy in Berlin (1999).

Iceland – literature

Compared with the art of poetry in the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe, recent Icelandic literature is characterized primarily by its high degree of traditional awareness and inner continuity, but also by the oral character of the forms and the substance’s connection to everyday life. This distinctiveness must be seen against the background of a whole set of complex interacting factors – geographical, social, political, linguistic – which from the Reformation 1550 have determined the literary development in Iceland.

The emergence of an Icelandic Bible as early as 1584 and the unbroken use of Icelandic as the language of the church implies the maintenance of a scriptural norm in which, on the basis of eddakvad and saga literature, one has been able to both preserve tradition and develop new poetic forms. However, the country’s remote location, the short distance in living conditions between the highest and lowest in a society characterized by harsh natural conditions, a fairly homogeneous population composition and a high level of education and training even in the general population also contribute to the uniqueness of Icelandic literature.

If you want to form an idea about the literary communication in the last 450 years of Icelandic culture, you typically have to imagine the residents of a rather lonely peat farm gathered in the evening, busy with needlework, but listening to readings or verse lectures. During such an evening vigil, evening vigil, young and old, the free as well as the enslaved, are exposed to the same substance of experience or imagination and the same literary form.

On Icelandic says an old saying that the Gospels, there are not a lot of, for them there is no battle scenes in. The need for excitement and entertainment, people were rather satisfied by reading aloud of sagas and by recitation or foresight tion of long narratives in verse, called rímur, composed in a difficult metric with letter rhymes, fixed rhythm and ending rhymes. Texts of this kind are found handed down with over a thousand examples and used to fulfill the same function as TV series and sports broadcasts today.

The fact that literature in Iceland has dominated other artistic forms to the present day is also connected with the fact that its material, language, voice, parchment, paper, were usually at hand and could easily be transported from place to place. Of the rich medieval music culture not much was left after the priests of Pietism, and as far as visual art and architecture were concerned, the sparse materiality, climate and natural conditions of the materials placed a certain limitation on the manifestations. An extraordinarily large proportion of the Icelanders’ desire for expression and aesthetic ability therefore found their way into shaping the language as beautifully and ingeniously as possible, as ancestors had done in the time of the Edda and the sagas.

Until the 1900’s. could, roughly speaking, be composed about everything between heaven and earth. The forms of poetry and narrative were used on every occasion for enlightenment and entertainment, to hold the memory tight, for teasing and partying. In order to understand the uniqueness of Icelandic literature, even in recent times, one should therefore operate with a broad concept of literary function. Then one realizes why 1900’s modernity experiences right up to the media cultural era have been able to be processed into saga language and interpreted in poetic forms with medieval roots, such as what happened, for example, when Þórarinn Eldjárn (b. 1949) in 1978 sang Walt Disney’s Andeby- universe in a collection of elaborate rhymes.

Phases of development

Between the Reformation and 1740, in the so-called period of learning, the most significant contributions in prose are Bishop Jón Vídalín’s postil (1718-20), the Indian traveler Jón Ólafsson’s combined travelogue and autobiography and Arngrímur Jónsson’s Latin Icelandic description Crymogæa (1606). From the same period derives a classic: the priest Hallgrímur Pétursson’s 50 Passion Hymns (1666), the third major highlight in Icelandic literature after the edda and saga.

Of popular literary forms, a large number of rhymes have been preserved from this economically poor time, often built on saga, legend and fairy tale material, as well as dance quatrains (vikivaki) and other types of folk poems. In contrast, Icelandic literature follows up to the 1800’s. only to a limited extent simultaneous currents on the continent such as Baroque, Rococo and Classicism.

A new boom took place from the 1840’s. The struggle for national independence went hand in hand with the effort to keep the language clean and link the new literature to the old via the well-established forms. The magazine Fjölnir became the beginning of popular-national romance with the poets Jónas Hallgrímsson and Steingrímur Þorsteinsson, the prose writer Jón Thoroddsen and the playwright Matthías Jochumsson. During naturalism, socially conscious narrative art was created by Gestur Pálsson in particular, linked to the magazine Verðandi, just as poetry gained a solid grip on the daily life of, among others, Grímur Thomsen and Þorsteinn Erlingsson.

In the decades around 1900, national neo-romanticism dominated in poetry, narrative art and drama over symbolism, which was really only represented by the lyricist Einar Benediktsson. Historical and folk themes were cultivated in Jónas Guðlaugsson’s (1887-1916) and Jóhann Sigurjónsson’s poems and plays. Icelandic writers at this time often wrote in Danish or Norwegian; internationally known became the novelist Gunnar Gunnarsson and the children’s book author Jón Sveinsson (“Nonni”, 1857-1944).

The 1920’s and 1930’s were particularly marked by a generation of politically and socially oriented writers, many of whom first appeared in the journal Rauðir pennar (Red Pens). By far the most significant was Halldór Laxness, who went through the entire development from neo-romanticism through form-renewing modernism and socially critical realism to fantastic realism. Important contemporary prose writers with a popular, socialist tendency were Þórbergur Þórðarson (1889-1974), Kristmann Guðmundsson, Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson, Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir (1895-1967) and Stefán Jónsson (1905-66), among whom the last two also wrote children’s books of lasting value. Within poetry, the social attitude manifested itself in the form of struggle poetry in e.g. Jóhannes úr Kætlar; in the 1940’s, however, modernism broke through with him as well as with the lone Steinn Steinarr.

The time around 1950 was drawn by tradition-critical modernists, the “atomic poets” – especially Sigfús Daðason (1928-96), Stefán Hörður Grímsson, Hannes Pétursson, Hannes Sigfússon and Þorsteinn Jónsson frá Hamri, with whom the “free verses” form steep breaks with the old forms. In prose, the break-up took place around 1960 with Thor Vilhjálmsson, Jakobína Sigurðardóttir, Guðbergur Bergsson, Svava Jakobsdóttir and the wilder experimenter Steinar Sigurjónsson (1928-92). Organ for debate and debut during this period became the magazine Birtingur.

After 1970, Icelandic narrative art was first characterized by neo-realism, but around 1980 a group of writers appeared, ranging from social criticism to magical-fantastic prose in novel and short story form. The same development is seen in the lyric, which moves from spoken, narrative forms to more obscure, condensed verses. Prominent exponents of the open and easily accessible are prose writers and playwrights such as Vésteinn Lúðvíksson (b. 1944), Guðlaugur Arason (b. 1950) and Ólafur Haukur Símonarson (b. 1947), the novelist Pétur Gunnarsson and not least Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, active in many genres. The cover against epic magic is especially marked by Einar Már Guðmundsson, Einar Kárason, Vigdís Grímsdóttir and Gyrðir Elíasson. In female authors, Fríða Á. Sigurðardóttir and Álfrún Gunnlaugsdóttir (b. 1938), furthermore, a search for forgotten role models in the world of history and legends is seen. On the whole, Icelandic poetry in the 1980’s and 1990’s is clearly tradition-conscious, even when it most eagerly seeks to come to terms with its contemporaries, and the authors only rarely escape the dialogue with the popular, oral forms.

Iceland – theater

The oldest Icelandic theater is possibly seen in ritual dances and in dramatic performances of edda poems. In the 1700’s. a festa stultorum tradition is known at the cathedral school in Skálholt, and when this moved to Reykjavík in the late 1700’s, the first Icelandic plays were performed there.

In the 1800’s. amateur performances were seen, and from 1860 this business became lively in towns along the coast, in schools and farms. 1897 Leikfélag Reykjavíkur was established, and in the first two decades of 1900-t. reached its actors up to professional artistic level.

Iceland’s National Theater opened in 1950, and since then theater life has been characterized by increasing intensity. There are two large theater ensembles in Reykjavík: the National Theater and the Stadsteatret, where Leikfélag Reykjavíkur has been housed since 1989. Akureyri also has a professional theater ensemble. In Reykjavík there are a state ballet troupe, a private opera and a children’s theater in addition to approximately 15 professional groups and puppet theater. The weekly theater offer in the high season is approximately 25 performances. In the rural areas there are approximately 80 active amateur theater associations. approximately 40% of the repertoire in the theaters is new Icelandic drama, and the number of spectators per. season is often approaching the number of residents.

Iceland – dance

Descriptions of dance at festive gatherings, gleði, from approximately 1600 and more detailed from approximately 1800 tells of dance to song by a lead singer seconded by several singers. There are also reports of dance games, vikivaki, with pantomime elements and motifs, which are partly found in singing games from the rest of the Nordic countries. However, these dances were strongly opposed by the church. From the end of the 1700’s. the common European fashion dances penetrated, and in Reykjavík balls were arranged with instrumental music.

The scenic dance is a young art form in Iceland. The National Theater opened in 1950 with a stage that enabled opera and ballet, and with its own ballet school from 1952. The repertoire focuses on modern works and the building of a national choreographic tradition, but also includes classical ballet.

Iceland – music

In interaction with the local folk music, church music has since the introduction of Christianity been an important source of foreign influence at all levels of music life. Þorlakstíðir (Officio Sancti Thorlaci) from 1200-t. is written in Latin as a Gregorian chant according to rímur rules. Later, polyphony also developed, especially the two-part organ as a parallel to the popular two-part song. From the 1700’s. stagnated cultural life, including the knowledge of sheet music reading and music theory, which until then had been mainly cultivated in connection with hymn book publications. Music life was virtually unaffected by developments in Europe, and instruments were virtually unknown.

First with the national romanticism in the late 1800’s. the foreign influence began to reappear; especially the organists in Reykjavík and other Icelanders who acquired musical skills in Denmark became exponents of this development. Despite the late emergence of art music in Iceland, it has reached a considerable extent. In recent times, choirs, orchestras and music schools have been found all over the country, and music festivals have helped to place Iceland in an international context. The fact that the composers study in different countries means that the inspiration is very varied; yet a search for a national identity can be traced in music. Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson (1847-1927) and Jón Leifs (1899-1969) were the first composers to become known outside Iceland; the site is followed Atli Heimir Sveinsson (b. 1938) and Jón Nordal (b.

Popular music

The early popular music dates from the 1800’s, first with European marches and polkas on accordion and violin, then among other things. waltz, often accompanied by string quartets. In 1920 the first professional dance orchestras emerged, some of them also took jazz on the repertoire in the 1930’s. The deployment of English and American soldiers during World War II meant an increase in the level of jazz music. With its own music radio, the American base in Keflavík became the center of popular music. From the 1950’s, a local record production developed, and pop music reached a high professional level with musicians such as KK sextet and Haukur Morthens. From 1956, rock music was played both by these artists and by a new generation, while the Beatles wave from 1964 involved a large number of youth bands and a large number of record releases with their own compositions.Mezzoforte was not very popular in Iceland. The punk wave 1979-83, led by singer Bubbi Morthens, brought a new angle into rock music, which was later expressed in The Sugarcubes and singer Björk’s international success in the 1990’s. Björk’s breakthrough created great interest in Icelandic music abroad, the rock group Botnleðja (Silt) and the experimental multi-artists Gus Gus have gained great international attention in a very short time.

Iceland – music (folk music)

The earliest recordings of Icelandic folk music date from the last half of the 1800’s. The most important local genres are rhymes, loose verses, verses, folk hymn singing, nursery rhymes and duets.

Rhymes are long epic, often dramatic and heroic narratives, not infrequently of 1000 verses or more. They are chanted (a cross between song and speech) with a melody that is often narrow with three to six tone steps, but the performance is very individual. The Lausa Poems are descriptive or characterizing songs on one stanza (one stanza finger); they have the same metric structure as rhymes and are chanted in the same way. In the folk song, the range of tones is greater, often an octave or more; for the tonality, the elevated quarter is a characteristic feature. The folk hymn song is in its origin the hymn melodies of the Reformation period, but in the tradition almost the folk song, tonally, and also adorned with embellishments and melisms.Tvísöngur is a two-part practice in folk singing with parallel quintets and frequent voice crossings. Barnagælur are strips and songs in company with children; they are performed with a particularly intimate way of singing: de raulas. The strip melody usually has a tonal range of one fifth or six and consists of chains of short formulas, most ornate, descending quarter sequences.

Special Icelandic instruments are fiddle and long playing used for singing accompaniment. A special instrumental repertoire is not known.

Iceland – film

The first Icelandic feature film premiered in 1923, but the country first established an actual film production in 1978 with the establishment of the Icelandic film fund IFF (Icelandic Film Fund), which produces an average of two feature films annually with support from Nordic Film and TV Fund.

The breakthrough came with Ágúst Guðmundsson (b. 1947) Land og synir (1980, Land og sønner), which paved the way for a talented generation of filmmakers, including many women.

Among the essential instructors are Hrafn Gunnlaugsson (b. 1948) with revenge saga Hrafninn flýgur (1984, when the raven flies), Fridrik Thór Friðriksson with the Oscar -nominerede Börn náttúrunnar (1991, Nature’s children) and Dagur Kári (b. 1973) with Nói Albino (2003).

Iceland – chess and bridge

At the Icelandic National Museum there are pieces for board games from around the year 1000, which are played chess in the Icelandic sagas, and throughout history, chess and chess-like games have been widespread. In modern times, Iceland also has a tradition in board games. The most famous of Iceland’s grandmasters in chess, Friðrik Ólafsson (b. 1935), was put on public shares and became No. 7 at the World Cup candidate tournament in 1957. Iceland has achieved fine places at the Chess Olympics, arranges title tournaments every year and was in 1972 the world chess center when Reykjavík hosted the dramatic World Cup match between Spassky and Fischer. The country also has a large number of elite athletes in bridge, where Iceland in 1991 won the World Cup (Bermuda Bowl) in Yokohama.

Iceland Education